Perception is a physiological process through which everything in this world is interpreted and understood. And our perception is based on our thoughts, beliefs and behaviours – which then define the way we think, and therefore the way we act.
There are two types of perception: the way you see yourself and your world and the way others see you and their world. The only perception you have control over is your own. How you perceive your world influences your attitude, which in turn affects what you attract. If you perceive a world of abundance, your actions and attitude attract abundance.
Conversely, if you perceive your life as lacking what you need, you worry more about conserving what you have rather than attaining those things you want and need. Our brains automatically process what we worry about as a threat. This then changes our perception and even our body chemistry.
In a study by Jessica Witt, a cognitive psychologist at Colorado State University, participants were engaged in Parkour, a non-competitive sport that involves efficient movement around obstacles. Witt and her colleagues asked both experts and novices how well they thought they could climb a given wall and then asked them to estimate its height. Parkour novices saw the walls as taller than they actually were, whereas experienced parkour athletes tended to see walls accurately.
Furthermore, Witt found that distances look farther to people when they weigh more. She and her colleagues went to a Walmart and asked shoppers to estimate the distance from where they stood to several cones on the ground. Obese participants saw the cones as farther away than people who fell in the ‘normal’ range or were only moderately overweight. The results were dramatic: an extra 200 pounds of body weight roughly doubled peoples’ estimates. Such visual biases could make it harder for obese people to adopt an active lifestyle, according to Witt.
Perception is not about what happens, it’s about what you’re paying attention to and the then way you interpret that and then ultimately how you act on it or react to it.
Happy or sad, exciting or dull, challenging or defeating, you interpret every moment you spend in the world. And your world is what your mind says it is. So ultimately your thoughts, beliefs and behaviours all exert the most powerful influence on your perception of your life.
Everyone has bad days, but if you find yourself caught in a cycle of bad days, then you have to take the decision to change your perception of that. This means changing your thoughts, beliefs and behaviours. Going from a negative perspective to a positive one costs nothing. Being able to visualise beyond where you are and see where you would like to be, only takes a few minutes. Though you have to choose to do this, rather than stay where you are.
Once you’ve decided to change your thoughts, then you have to decide to take the action steps to make that happen. So, if you find yourself encountering a challenging situation in your day, ask yourself, do I perceive solutions and success or do I perceive problems and failure? The choice is always yours.
Dean Griffiths is the founder and CEO of Energy Fusion, the first interactive online platform to subjectively assess physical and mental health.